Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘Energy Savings’ Category

6 Tips to Keep Your Wallet Happy This Winter

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Don’t let your winter heating costs get you down


Sure, in the short walk from your heated car to your heated office the cold winter air may be refreshing, but I’m sure there are few among us who don’t appreciate the comfort of a well-heated house at the end of the day. I’ll also bet there are few among us whose energy bills don’t see some kind of spike in these winter months either. That part’s not so comforting.

But before you scramble to take up residence someplace more tropical, we’ve put together 6 tips to help keep your house warm and wallet happy this winter.

1. Go smart (with a smart/programmable thermostat)

Automatically control the temperature of your house when you’re working, sleeping, or otherwise occupied with a programmable thermostat, and you can save from 5 to 20% on your heating bill. No need to worry about remembering to turn your heat down when you leave the house–programmable thermostats take the hassle out of heating.

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Is Aeroseal Right for You?

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Do you have uncomfortable hot or cold rooms in your house, dusty or musty air that aggravates allergies, or high utility bills that leave something to be desired month after month? The bad news: You may have leaky ducts.

The good news: Aeroseal’s duct work sealing technology has helped improve home comfort, overall air quality, and energy savings in homes across the country. When 30 cents of every $1 spent on heating/cooling leaks before making it to your living space, properly sealed ducts make a big difference in savings.

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Aeroseal Featured on PBS’s Hometime with Dean Johnson

Monday, January 18th, 2016

This last weekend, Aeroseal duct sealing was featured on national television (again).

Check out this clip from Hometime for a great explanation of how the procedure works and how you could see improvements to indoor air quality, dust, consistent comfort and heating expenses.

I encourage everyone to ask your local heating and cooling contractor if they can provide this service. If they can’t, then make sure to find out who can!

Don’t let anyone tell you that hand sealing the duct system is “just as good” as sealing them from the inside.

If you are in BARRON HEATING’s service area, check out this page for more great information and how you can take advantage of this innovative opportunity: http://www.barronheating.com/aeroseal/

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Insulate Your Home for the Summer!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015


Insulation is important in the winter for obvious reasons, but did you know it also helps to keep your home cool in the summer?

Though insulation may seem obvious in this day and age, older homes often have very little or no insulation.

Because heating and cooling accounts for 50-70% of all energy costs, adding insulation is a critical step for anyone interested in lowering their energy bill.

It can be difficult to invest money in something you can’t even see day-to-day, but in the overall performance of your home, it’s critically important. And it’s becoming less and less hard on your pocketbook to install these much-needed updates. There are rebate programs through Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas, and in some cases, rebate matching through the Community Energy Challenge (CEC).

Check out this great article: for a thorough description of the types of insulation, where in your home to put it, and much more!

The article also discusses geeky but useful things like R-Value of insulation. Turns out it stands for Resistance to heat flow. That makes sense! The DOE recommends an R-Value of R-49 for attics. And the better your insulation, the less hard your heating and cooling system will have to work, and therefore the longer before it breaks down. Win-win-win.

So, how do you know how much insulation you have in your home and where? Well, if you are handy and don’t mind wading through it yourself there are DIY ways of checking for insulation. However, if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, a Home Performance Assessment will tell you definitively where the insulation is. An Infrared Camera, used in most assessments, can look right through your walls!

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Home Performance Financing 101

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Is all this talk about Energy Upgrades and Home Performance getting you down because you’d love to make improvements to your home, but lack the finances to make it happen?

Believe it or not, we were in  the same boat (even though we both work in the industry). We were aware of the enormous benefits of a weatherized, insulated, and efficiently heated home for years before we finally pulled the trigger. I always just assumed we couldn’t afford it! I was completely in the dark about just how many financing options were available. That’s our home in the photo above, being tested for all things Home Performance related. That very home is now fully sealed/weatherized/efficiently heated/ventilated/basically every upgrade we could think of, for just under $100/month with the financing we received!

What types of financing are available and how to begin?

There are 4 basic types of financing for Energy/Home Performance/Heating upgrades.

  1. Energy Upgrade-Specific Financing: This is probably your best bet if you qualify, and it is the route we went for financing. Check out Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union’s ENERGY SMART loans. PSCCU is a co-op bank geared toward local, environmental, and energy-savings solutions. And, they have fantastic rates! Must be in WA State to work with them, but check with your local financial institutions to see if your state has a similar program.
  2. A traditional Home Improvement Loan. This will likely be a little more expensive, but still a great option, and usually a better rate than a personal loan. Check with your current bank for their home improvement financing options.
  3. Personal Loan. Again, check with the bank you already do business with. A lot of times, you’ll get your best rate there, because they know you and want to keep your business. Personal loans tend to be a little more costly than other types of loans.
  4. Larger HVAC and Home Performance companies oftentimes have banks they work with, and you can receive significant deals, discounts, and lower rates by going through them. If you live in our area (Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Snohomish counties), check out Barron’s financing. We make available a 7.5% 10 year loan through a local bank, and a 6 mo. same-as-cash deal (if you qualify) through a nation-wide bank. Check with your local HVAC company to see if they have similar programs.
  5. Your local Human Services Organization (Bonus option!), though this is less about financing and more about low-income options. Some folks can receive free or very low-cost Home Performance/Weatherization work through the Human Services organization in their area. Our local agency is the Opportunity Council.

What’s Your Return On Investment (ROI)?

Here’s the nitty-gritty. If you’re ready to make the leap with financing, you’re probably asking just how long will it take to break even (between what you’re paying each month and what you’re saving in energy bills)? The basic formula goes like this:

Total cost of the project (divided by) your estimated annual savings = ROI

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say your project costs $10,000 and that allows you to save $1,000 per year in energy bills. Your ROI will occur in 10 years.

Where does one get these numbers? Your HVAC or Home Performance expert can give them to you.

What About Rebates?

The three main rebate programs for energy upgrades and home performance in our area are through Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Cascade Natural Gas (CNG), and the Community Energy Challenge (CEC). Here are direct links to the Applications for Homeowners: PSE Rebates , CNG Rebates, and CEC Information.

Beyond Finances:

Although finances are of primary importance for most people, there ARE other significant benefits to consider beyond the money saved.

  1. Peace of Mind: A new heating/cooling system and weatherization can set your mind at ease; allowing your family to relax without having to worry about shut-downs and repair costs.
  2. Health & Safety: There is ample evidence that people’s HVAC equipment and home are making them sick. An out-of-date, improperly-installed, or inefficient system can be very unhealthy, causing or contributing to myriad health-issues and diseases. And safety issues, such as carbon-monoxide leaks can be an immediate danger.
  3. Comfort: Most people want to create a warm, cozy, comfortable space for their friends and family. This is an undeniable benefit of investing in your home!

If this article has piqued your interest, I hope you will take a minute to contact your bank or HVAC contractor to get the ball rolling! You might be surprised by how affordable it is to create a cozy, efficient, healthy space!

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Annual Furnace Service (Part I of our Annual Maintenance Series!)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Most of us are pinching pennies after the holidays. This means that home maintenance services that aren’t absolutely necessary often get pushed to the back burner. I’ve heard many folks (myself included!) wonder things like “Is annual maintenance really necessary for my furnace,” or “couldn’t I do that myself and save some money?”

These are great questions! Let’s demystify annual HVAC maintenance by going over: 1. Why an annual service might be important 2. Whether or not all HVAC maintenance is performed equally 3. What, exactly, your service tech (or, what a good one, anyway) should be accomplishing during their visit, and 4. Could annual maintenance be a DIY project?

Is annual maintenance important for your furnace or heating system?

The short answer is yes. But let’s not leave it at that.

Houses are like cars in many ways (except if you’re lucky, you don’t spend nearly as much time in your car as you do your home). So, why is it that most people agree regular car maintenance is critical, whereas it still seems up for debate that your home also needs scheduled care from a professional? Like a car, home heating systems are composed of many intricate parts that all have to work together to deliver healthy, warm, efficient, and cost-effective heat. And, like an inspection and oil change for your car, a regular inspection and maintenance for your furnace can undoubtedly extend the life of your heating system, and the overall health of your home.

Most people know what happens to a car without the routine recommended maintenance. But what happens to your home without an annual furnace maintenance?

A neglected furnace or heating system could result in:

  1. Utility bills going up. No one wants to spend more money on monthly heat bills than they need to. No one. A high heat bill is one major indicator that your furnace needs attention.
  2. Your furnace could need replacing sooner. ALL furnace manufacturers recommend a yearly service. Having to buy a new furnace could mean prematurely shelling out thousands of dollars to keep your family comfortable. If you can extend the life of your current system with under $150 per year, you probably should.
  3. A furnace that hasn’t been properly cleaned can overheat, become clogged, start a fire, release carbon monoxide into your home (cracked heat exchanger), or simply make your furnace shut off. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer a yearly maintenance to breathing carbon monoxide, yikes!
  4. Illnesses and allergies can be (and often are) caused or exacerbated by faulty or dirty heating systems. This is the air your family breathes, after all.

Are all Annual Maintenance calls performed equally?

Will these items listed above be addressed when you schedule a service call? Unfortunately, the answer is maybe. The service you receive can vary drastically depending on who you call and what you pay. One company can give your furnace or boiler a clean bill of health; whereas another company could come in a week later and find that a multitude of things were not properly taken care of.

There seems to be no industry standard for what is included in an annual maintenance appointment. Many companies offer a “basic tune-up,” a “comprehensive maintenance,” or something by a different name or somewhere in between.  Your best bet is to ask the technician what they will be doing exactly. He or she should be able to quickly give a complete list of items they’ll be cleaning or checking; it should look something like the list below.

What exactly needs to be done annually?

This checklist is the minimum of what should be performed at a comprehensive service appointment. A good HVAC company will also take note of the home performance implications that arise. Technicians who are trained to identify home performance issues will recognize things like duct leakage, house leakage, excessive dust in the home or ducts, rodent issues, and other problems that won’t necessarily be resolved by routine furnace maintenance. Finding and addressing these home performance gaps will lead to a much more efficient, healthy, and warm home.

Basic Annual Furnace Maintenance:

  1. Test temperature rise through furnace
  2. Test all furnace safety controls for proper operation
  3. Test thermostat for proper operation
  4. Test and adjust furnace gas pressure if applicable
  5. Check furnace electrical connections and wiring condition
  6. Test furnace sequence of operation
  7. Clean furnace blower compartment
  8. Check and clean furnace burner compartment
  9. Check furnace blower wheel
  10. Check and clean furnace burners if applicable
  11. Inspect venting for rust and/or corrosion
  12. Check and clean flame sensor and pilot assembly if applicable
  13. Lubricate all moving parts if applicable
  14. Replace furnace filter
  15. For all fossil-fuel burning equipment: Carbon Monoxide Detection test performed in living area

Could the homeowner do all of this herself?

The homeowner could in fact do all of these things, but only if they know how to perform all or most of the items on the list above. I for one, don’t know anyone who isn’t an HVAC professional who can adequately execute all of these checks and cleanings. A heating professional should be able to complete and explain to you everything on the list above; which is what makes them worth the 100 to 150 bucks it costs to do it right!

Hopefully this post has helped to take some of the complexity and mystery out of the annual furnace maintenance. Keeping your annual appointment is all about preventative measures. Following recommended maintenance will likely keep you warm and healthy longer, and keep unexpected furnace shut-downs at bay!

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The Real Deal on Energy Saving Gadgets

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

This is probably the best article I’ve read for an overview on all those heavily pushed gadgets and doodads that get sold as “home energy solutions.”

From ACHR News

Do Energy-saving Products Actually Save Customers Energy?

HVAC Contractors Need to Educate Consumers

By Joanna R. Turpin

August 18, 2014

All homeowners want to save money on their energy bills, which is why they are often intrigued by gadgets, additives, and one-off products that claim to offer significant methods to cutting energy usage. These products are appealing because they usually cost significantly less than taking the whole-house approach to saving energy, which may involve adding insulation, sealing ductwork, and upgrading heating and cooling equipment.
But HVAC professionals warn that, in many cases, these products do nothing more than separate homeowners from their hard-earned money. As Jordan Goldman, LEED AP/CPHC, engineering principal, ZeroEnergy Design, Boston, noted, “The focus needs to be on upgrading the building envelope — that’s where the biggest benefits are going to be. There is no singular fix. Homeowners shouldn’t fall for magic bullets and anything that seems too good to be true…
CONTINUE Reading Here

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Because James Brown says so…

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

The first thing you need to watch when researching home performance:

You may now continue your education.
Professor Brown has completed his lecture.

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Home Performance: More Than an Energy Audit

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Forward thinkers understand Energy Auditing.  An energy auditor looks at your energy useage, your house and prescribes behaviors and equipment that will help bring down your total energy consumption.  What most people are confused on is what makes Home Performance different. A recent video by Corbett Lunsford of the Chicago Green Dream Group spells it out beautifully.

He gives his 4-3-2-1 of Home Performance.  He says there are 4 Elements to Home Performance:

  1. Heat Flow: What can I use to make my building more energy efficient or higher performing?
  2. Airflow & Pressure: Both can cause a myriad of problems in the house including indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency.
  3. Moisture: This will damage a building’s durability faster than anything else, is a major component in poor indoor air quality and can greatly affect comfort as well.
  4. Indoor Air Quality: If you have respiratory problems caused by poor indoor air, we need to take a step back from energy efficiency until we’ve ensured that the air in your home is safe to breathe.

3 Recommendations:

  1. Air Sealing (Air Ducts and Home): It is cheap, effective, doesn’t need to be maintained or replaced and uses no energy (zero operating cost!)
  2. Insulation: Largely ineffective without air sealing first!
  3. HVAC: Without the first two, replacing a furnace with a more efficient model is akin to driving a Prius on flat tires!

2 Systems in Home:

  1. Envelope: The Envelope is comprised of the Air Barrier (made complete by Air Sealing any holes), which is the windbreaker for your home and the Insulation, the sweater.
  2. HVAC: This stands for the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems in your home.  Water heating is included.

1 Goal: CONTROL. Energy Efficiency is a result of control.

The kicker here is that the only way to properly demonstrate control of a building is Home Performance Testing.  Things you can expect to gain from taking these 3 recommendations (as tailored to your house, concerns and budget) are increased comfort, lower utility bills, better indoor air quality, and a more durable home.  You also get confidence in your home performance contractor because they are the only ones that can PROVE the results they promise.

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The Importance of Air Sealing Attic Penetrations

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Can light sealing by CAZ Energy Services. Photo: Hunter Hassig

Many times when homeowners are looking at home improvement solutions for cold spots or high energy bills they think insulation. While insulating your attic and crawl space sub-floor up to code standards is very important for whole home comfort and energy efficiency it is insufficient on its own. This is because in almost every home there are numerous holes in the ceilings that allow air to move freely between your attic space and the conditioned living space of your home. Insulation is a thermal barrier NOT an air barrier. To further illustrate this think of insulation as a sweatshirt. It will keep you warm on a calm day but on a windy one you will need a wind breaker or rain jacket to stay comfortable. Air sealing those holes in your ceiling that lead to the attic creates a consistent, level air barrier that acts as a wind breaker for your home.

Where exactly are these holes? According to The Homeowners’ and Trades Resource Center the three most common areas are wiring penetrations, plumbing penetrations and where your drywall meets up with the framing. Some other trouble areas include soffits, dropped ceilings, chases, vents, exhausts, bath fans, recessed lighting (ie. can lights), and ductwork in your attic. In order to seal small holes like those around bath fans, use silicone caulk or expandable foam. To seal bigger gaps like those found in dropped ceilings and soffits, use rigid foam or drywall (depending on local code) to bring that area to the same level as the rest of the attic and then seal around it with foam or caulk. Sealing these holes will not only save you money on your utility bills but will lead to a more even temperature in the house and many times improve indoor air quality as well.

Some content from: http://blog.sls-construction.com/2011/air-sealing-attic-penetrations

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